STILLWATER — Drama abounds whenever Oklahoma State plays on Thursday night.
This time around is no different.
Except that the drama is off the field.
As OSU prepares for a Thursday night game against Arizona, conference realignment is all the rage. When will Texas A&M make its next move? Will the SEC be swayed by Baylor threatening a lawsuit? What will happen to the Big 12? What will the Oklahoma schools do?
It's anyone's guess, of course, but with both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State off this weekend, you have to wonder if the Bedlam buddies might announce their intentions soon.
Seems fitting that OSU is playing this high-profile, prime-time game now. It can show the college football world that the Cowboys belong in the realignment conversation.
“We bring something to the table,” Cowboy quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “If you asked five, six, seven years ago, maybe not as much. But we put ourselves on the map to give ourselves a chance to be an upper-echelon team, to be in any conference.
“Winning games takes care of that.”
True. True. True.
The Cowboys absolutely bring something to the table that they didn't always have. Their fortunes changed when Boone Pickens decided to invest millions in his alma mater's athletic department.
The megabooster recently recalled a chat that he had seven or eight years ago with OSU athletic director Mike Holder.
“If we're going to get competitive,” Holder said of football, “we're going to have to spend $300 million.”
“Mike,” Pickens said, “there is no way I'm going to do that.”
Well, he did.
One of the main reasons was Pickens' concern that the Big 12 wouldn't be around forever. If that happened, he worried that OSU would find itself on the outside looking in.
“We had that conversation several times that if we didn't do something for ourselves, nobody's going to want us,” Pickens said. “I think we did something for ourselves.”
The renovations to the stadium, the expansion of the facilities and the upgrades in the program would indicate as much.
Success has followed, and now, regardless of what happens with this conference shuffling, it's impossible to imagine that OSU not landing on its feet. Who wouldn't want a program that has invested millions? That has proved its commitment? That has established itself as an emerging power?
All of that will be on display Thursday night on ESPN. Recorded segments will take viewers inside the state-of-the-art locker room and the larger-than-life weight room. Sweeping camera shots will show off the stadium. An orange-clad full house and a decisive Cowboy victory would be nice added touches.
With Thursday night all to themselves, the Cowboys will have the eye of the entire college football world.
“Saturdays, you have 30 or 40 teams playing at one time,” Cowboy kicker/punter Quinn Sharp said. “You may not be the main focus on the TV. You may be on an off channel.”
That isn't the case on Thursdays.
“You know you're one of the only teams playing that night,” Sharp said. “You have more eyes on you and more attention on the program.”
The Cowboys have always delivered dramatics on Thursday nights. Two years ago was a come-from-behind victory against Colorado with a little-known backup quarterback named Weeden. A year ago was a thriller against Texas A&M capped by a Dan Bailey field goal as time expired.
Any chance this Thursday night game will be as suspenseful?
But the off-field drama more than makes up for it.